Greetings once again from Fantastic Fest! It's 8AM. Everyone is sleeping. Meredith's homemade muffins have been decimated. We are almost out of toilet paper after just one day. And I sit in the silence, pondering why I am not in love with Sam Smith's SPECTRE theme. I'm not "the music guy", or even "the film score guy", so it's hard for me to legitimately critique music. I like what I like, and can't always tell you why. Similarly, I can't always tell you why I don't like what I don't like, and friends, I feel like I do not love "Writing's On The Wall."
I've listened twice: once on a laptop at 3 in the morning (with new pal Driveby Commenter) while the rest of the BMD staff drunkenly partied to other music in the adjacent room. Not optimal, but we didn't love what we could hear. The second time was just now, on my headphones with no distractions but Evan Saathoff's snoring across the room. And I can't put my finger on why the song isn't clicking for me.
Is it the arrangement? I hear brassy horns and strings all living exactly where they're supposed to in a Bond theme. Is is the melody? I don't think so. The melody sounds, to my untrained ear, exactly like a Bond theme, perhaps just missing the big crescendos of the classic 007 theme songs. But more of those classics than we might remember were pretty firmly on the melancholy side. Even Carly Simon's hyperbolically complimentary "Nobody Does It Better" has a sentiment of sadness running under the thing, and Adele's all-timer might have actually made me tear up a little in the theater. So why's the weepy route not flying this time? Is it Mope Fatigue? Is the song too much of a self-aware sadness pile coming right after Skyfall? Maybe.
Does Smith's voice have anything to do with it? I actually read a comment (not here, thank Jesus) in which a real live adult human said that Smith's voice was "not masculine enough" to follow in the footsteps of a-Ha and Duran Duran. Your mileage may vary, but Smith's voice works fine for me here, and certainly capable of continuing the proud vocal legacy of Lulu and Rita Coolidge.
Weirdly, I think what I keep coming back to is the lyrics - the chorus, especially - just aren't landing the way they should in a Big Bond Ballad. Is that nitpicking? Bond lyrics ain't Shakespeare, certainly, but "a storm is coming"? Really? I don't know, guys. Still, some themes were growers, not showers, so we'll have to see how it sits with us going forward. Most importantly, we'll need to see how the song plays against Daniel Kleinman's title sequence to determine just how good a job it is or isn't doing. But I have to admit disappointment upon the initial listen. As I said to Meredith, who was politely humoring me on the topic at 4AM last night, we only get one of these every few years. It's a bummer when it's not love at first listen. What do you guys think?
What's your first, second, fifteenth impression? I want your exhaustive rankings of 007 themes below, and whatever your thoughts on "Writing's On The Wall", if you rank it below "The Man With The Golden Gun" or "Die Another Day", you can tell your story walkin', pal.